Comment: Growing export markets requires careful thought

Picture: TSPL

Picture: TSPL

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There are several key areas which you must address when planning, writes Helena Brown

Scotland’s food and drink sector is the toast of the economy. In 2013, it achieved sales of £14.3 billion, according to the Scottish Government – a record figure.

There’s no shortage of ambition to take that further. At a recent HBJ Gateley seminar, James Withers, the chief executive of industry body Scotland Food and Drink, outlined his aspirational plans to grow the sector to sales of £16.5 billion – highlighting huge potential for Scottish produce in export markets.

Much of that opportunity is in Asia. Incredibly, Scottish companies sell more to Belgium, with a population of 11.2 million, than all the countries in the world’s most populous continent combined – 4.42 billion possible customers.

How we market Scottish food and drink will be absolutely crucial to our success in reaching these audiences and social media is one of the most important platforms on which brands are trying to reach new consumers.

However, those doing so need to be sure they’re keeping on the right side of a shifting legislative landscape, with regulators constantly revising their rules. Here are four areas they need to keep an eye on:

Privacy and data protection: According to IBM, every day we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data

From a marketing perspective, that’s great news for analytics and targeting. But, with data comes responsibility – particularly to protect it. Marketers must be compliant with data protection laws, ensuring their audiences and customers know what they’re agreeing to and what their data will be used for.

Intellectual property: On top of protecting customers’ data, brands need to consider how they’ll safeguard their own assets. Just because you have a registered trademark doesn’t automatically mean you will be entitled to the social media account – and it works the other way too. Amusingly, the registered owner of @johnlewis, a Virginia-based computer science educator named John Lewis, gets regularly congratulated on his Christmas ad campaign. Register all social media accounts early to avoid issues like this.

Make sure your username and password aren’t in the mind of just one person. HMV found that out the hard way, with a member of staff tweeting about redundancies as and when they were announced during its administration.

Consumer law: Social media has made, and continues to make, new celebrities and influencers. How brands engage with them is a fruitful source of fresh cases for the consumer regulatory watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Openness and honesty should be the two core values of any social media activity involving celebrity endorsement. The rule is to use “#sponsored” if there is payment to promote – this doesn’t always go down well with fans, but after CMA intervention it is now a legal must.

Defamation and harassment: For brands running their own pages and groups on social media platforms, possible defamation and harassment will be key things to watch out for – they could be held liable for defamatory comments generated by users and posted to their timelines. Monitoring your page is a must, while ensuring you also have clear “terms of use” up front.

• Helena Brown is a Partner with HBJ Gateley

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